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California Felony Probation: Know the Rules (2024 Guide)

Felony probation rules in California can vary depending on the specific terms set by the court and the probation officer. However, some common rules and conditions that are typically imposed include regular check-ins with a probation officer, drug and alcohol testing, substance abuse treatment, residency restrictions, no firearms, and various financial obligations.
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What is Felony Probation in California?

According to HLaw Group, felony probation in California is an alternative sentencing option for individuals convicted of a felony offense [1]. Instead of serving time in prison, the individual is released but must agree to specific terms and conditions to remain free.

So long as the defendant complies with the terms and conditions of his probation, he will maintain his freedom. However, if the convicted felon violates the terms of his probation, he is sent back to prison to complete his sentence behind bars – HLaw Group.

While on felony probation, the individual is not in custody and can move freely within the county but is under supervision. Regular check-ins with a probation officer are typically required to ensure compliance with the probation terms.

Also Read: Alternative Sentencing in California

What are the Conditions of Felony Probation in California?

According to EG Group, to receive felony probation in California, the defendant must agree to the conditions set by the court, which can vary based on the nature of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history [2].

Felony probation usually has restrictions on moving and travel. If a defendant wants to move, they will need to obtain approval from the court. If they want to travel, they will need to get consent from their probation officer – EG Group.

These conditions are aimed at promoting rehabilitation and can include regular meetings with a probation officer, drug or alcohol testing, community service, counseling, and obeying all laws.

Felony probation may also involve serving time in county jail or completing community labor. State prison time cannot be a condition of probation. Community labor typically involves hard labor such as CalTrans cleanup or graffiti removal.

Additionally, defendants must pay victim restitution and court fines and fees. If these fees are a financial burden, defendants can request to convert them to additional community labor. However, victim restitution must always be paid.

What Happens if I Violate Felony Probation in California?

In California, probationers who fail to comply with the terms or conditions of their probation can be subject to arrest. The court may issue a warrant for arrest, or a probation officer, if they reasonably believe there is a violation, can arrest the individual on the spot without a warrant. Typically, the individual may post bail pending a violation of probation (VOP) hearing.

At a VOP hearing in California, your criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor will present evidence and testimony regarding your alleged violation of probation. Because you have already been convicted of a crime, and because the VOP hearing exclusively concerns your probation for that standing conviction, the prosecution does not have to prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt“.

If the judge determines there was a violation, they have the authority to alter, revoke, or terminate the probation. For a first violation, the judge may reinstate probation with or without changes to the terms or conditions, depending on the nature of the violation. In many cases, judges temporarily revoke probation, order a jail term of thirty days or more, and then reinstate the probation.

California Probation Statistics

  • Probation serves as the primary form of correctional supervision in California, standing alongside prison, jail, and parole as one of the four forms of correctional control.
  • Judges may opt for probation over incarceration based on recommendations from the district attorney, public defender, and probation department.
  • California’s adult supervised probation population surpasses its prison, jail, and parole populations, and is primarily managed at the county level, unlike parole which is overseen by the state.
  • Historically, probation has been the most commonly used and cost-effective form of correctional supervision. Legislative acts such as the California Community Corrections Performance Incentives Act (SB 678) and Public Safety Realignment (AB 109) have shifted more responsibility to county probation departments, leading to a decline in the probation caseload.
  • As of 2014, one in every hundred adults in California was on probation.
  • The total probation caseload has decreased by 19% since 2003, with felony cases comprising 85% of the total caseload.
  • While probation spending has increased under realignment, it remains more economical than other forms of supervision, costing about $12 per day per probationer compared to $28 for parolees, $106 for jail inmates, and $164 for prisoners.
  • To enhance effectiveness, more probation departments are adopting evidence-based practices backed by scientific research to reduce recidivism rates. These practices include graduated sanctions and swift and certain penalties for probation violations.
  • Probation failures, which include revocations to jail or prison, have declined from 20,000 in 2010 to 17,000 in 2014, with about half resulting in jail time and the other half in imprisonment.

Source: Public Policy Institute of California [3].

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